Thursday, October 30, 2014

Top 7 ways to have Kickass Sidekicks

Top 7 ways to have Kickass Sidekicks

By: Jesse C Cohoon
Sidekicks are one of the staples of roleplaying games. These sidekicks can be as simple as a fighter’s followers, to the magic caster’s familiar, to something like the collectable monsters of Pokémon to the card spirit monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. Unfortunately, they tend to be rather bland, cookie cutter types of things that are just “there” for convenience, to do as they’re told, and fade into the background when not needed. Both as a game master and a roleplayer, I think a lot more can be teased out of these relationships, with just a bit more work, with a lot more reward for having done so. Here are the top 7 of ways to make kickass sidekicks.

1)      Give them a personality all of their own. Let them have a role in the party’s decisions. Let them disagree with the party’s plans, and be able to suggest their own that may or may not necessarily work. Have them be able to communicate on a regular basis outside of combat. Give them likes, and dislikes, as well as plots based around their character. If they should happen to die, based on their interactions and personality, the players should genuinely care about the loss.

2)      Give them complementary powers. If you have a fighter’s follower, allow them to tag team an enemy, so that each of their attacks are more effective, as well as the ability to guard each other’s backs. If you have a mage’s familiar, let the familiar’s very presence amplify their powers in some manner. You could even have certain spells be able to be cast through the familiar. When dealing with fighting monsters, if certain combinations are on the field, they can give bonuses to everyone else or get bonuses from other monsters.

3)      Give Them Unique Powers. The knowledge, skills, abilities, powers that the sidekick has should be uniquely theirs. Having a “carbon copy” of another character is somewhat useless, unless the character(s) are meant to be viewed as an inseparable pair, or are able to be more effective only when they fight together. These unique powers can be as simple as an improved ability that someone else has, where they were able to get more training in it, to a unique combination of skills to be able to do unique attacks with, to an ability so unique to them that it makes them shine in a particular situation.

4)      Give Them Unique Equipment. Having sidekicks with boring, out-of-the-book equipment is boring. It also shows that the person having the sidekick didn’t put enough thought into putting them together. Also, giving them unique equipment may help the party get past obstacles, defeat enemies, or further the plot. Who knows that random ring may be the key to unlocking the whole mystery.

5)      Give Them Unique Contacts. Just because the players know their sidekick, doesn’t necessarily mean that they know who their sidekick knows automatically, or gets a “free pass” to be able to connect with them without any problems. Their sidekick(s) should be willing to introduce their contacts to the players after some time knowing them. How the players interact with the sidekick’s contact(s) is on them, to make them into friends... or turn them into enemies.

6)      Give Them a Personal Connection To The Players. This is one tip that is most often overlooked. Perhaps their sidekick is a person/ animal/ monster whose life they saved. Other options are to have them be a childhood friend, a person they met in a disaster and stuck with them, or someone who they met while training who was impressed with them. Whatever the case, they should have a plot related reason for being there, one that is not easy to dismiss or break.   

7)      Give Them The Ability To Learn And Grow. Let them develop over time, developing in personality, gaining new equipment, learning new skills, powers, abilities, and meeting new contacts. Everything that they do. As they develop, grow, let them have a greater and greater part in the storyline.

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